The long-awaited $40-billion LNG Canada project at Kitimat, and the associated pipeline that will feed it natural gas, mean big and long-term benefits for First Nations, says the First Nations LNG Alliance of BC.
“This is huge news,” the Alliance’s CEO, Karen Ogen-Toews, former chief of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, said of the green light announced today by LNG Canada.
“It means jobs and training and education and it means opportunities for First Nations businesses and procurement and partnerships. Imagine what these can do for First Nations communities where unemployment now can be running at 50 and 60 and 70 per cent.
“And in the longer term it means lifetime careers, and steady, reliable, sources of revenue for First Nations and communities. It will also generate billions in taxes for all levels of government, and that means support for education and healthcare and social programs.”
The alliance chair, Chief Dan George of the Ts’il Kaz Koh First Nation, said:
“We see the LNG Canada project as offering, over time, a way of helping First Nations tackle poverty, unemployment, and social issues, and as a way of building careers for our people and economies for our First Nations. The sooner the better, for all of us.
“My own nation in BC stands to gain from TransCanada’s Coastal GasLink pipeline that will serve LNG Canada. We have participated to ensure environmental impacts are minimized. We have negotiated benefits our communities need.
“Our northern nations have watched industry take resources from our lands for years and get nothing for it. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our communities in the north. There is a natural-gas line that heats our community and we get nothing from that line. It’s been there since 1959 and has had no problems over the years. That proves its safety record, and with new technology this line will be even safer.”
The LNG plant at Kitimat will be built on the traditional territory of the Haisla Nation, whose chief councillor, Crystal Smith, a board member of the Alliance, sees long-term benefits from LNG Canada that go beyond employment.
“It will also enable us to focus on social impacts. We can focus on preserving our culture and our language, and focus on healing aspects, dealing with impact of the residential schools, for example. These are things that we hear about from our people. Indigenous people are resilient, and that’s inspiring. We would hope to reach out to other Nations in this area of social impact as well.”
She said LNG Canada had “set the bar very high in terms of interaction” when it comes to working with the Haisla people to protect the environment.
“Their approach is community-based. They have worked on our needs and the environmental impact with our environmental team. The environment is absolutely important to us, and LNG Canada has set a standard for how to address our concerns, and for how responsible development can be done.”
Ogen-Toews also praised LNG Canada’s co-operation on environmental protection, and its environmental promise.
“LNG Canada will produce LNG with fewer carbon emissions per tonne than all other large LNG facilities in the world. And that will help reduce emissions in Asia as LNG replaces coal to generate electricity there. This is going to be the equivalent of taking 19 million cars off the world’s roads, and making BC carbon-neutral.”
Ogen-Toews noted how Trans Canada Corporation and its Coastal GasLink Pipeline had also worked with First Nations to protect the environment around the pipeline that will feed natural gas from northeastern BC to LNG Canada.
“That is one reason why the elected councils of all 20 First Nations along the pipeline route have reached agreements with Coastal GasLink. And those agreements also mean training, education, jobs, business opportunities, and careers.”
The First Nations LNG Alliance headed by Ogen-Toews is a collective of First Nations who are participating in, and supportive of, sustainable and responsible LNG development in BC.